This piece was co-created by Michelle Janikian and Catherine Goldberg.

Happy Pride month, everyone! This Pride I’ve been thinking a lot about how the queer and cannabis communities intersect and all the things they have in common.

For one, both queerness and cannabis use have been criminalized and still continue to be marginalized. Yet, despite the struggle of both groups, nothing brings people together better than a huge cone of fabulous weed.

Not to mention, the legalization movement, especially the passing of Prop 215 here in California, is closely tied with the work of activists in the LGBTQ community. The HIV/AIDS crisis was a driving force behind MMJ laws in the ’90s because of the immense relief sufferers received from the powerful plant.

Plus, part of being and discovering your queerness comes with a lot of self-exploration and experimentation.

“When you are aware that you are different, you will endlessly explore yourself and your options,” explained Paige Kazazian, queer CEO of Farolero, a craft edibles company opening in Colorado. “It’s natural that LGBTQIA+ folks, who have done more exploring because of their sexuality and gender identities, to be more interested in experimenting, with not only cannabis, but different subcultures and appearances and communities.”

I interviewed almost a dozen queer people in the cannabis industry, and nearly every person told me they had to come out twice: once as queer, and again as a cannabis user.

Coming out is a complicated, intense and ongoing experience for many LGBTQ individuals, and to do it all over again is a staggering feat.

“Coming out as a stoner to people can get similar negative connotations, the way coming out as a queer person does,” said Jamie Carney, chief compliance officer at cannabis company ebbu. “Telling my mother I was queer was hard enough, but telling her I was leaving a normal 9-5 job to move to Colorado to work in the cannabis industry because I was passionate about it and a heavy user was difficult.”

I was thinking about all this while I was at LA’s Pride Parade recently. To be totally honest, I have no interest standing in large crowds, but instead of skipping our community’s special day, I handed out free Lowell pre-rolls on the sidewalk. It was an amazing experience, and I met a ton of extraordinary people, especially Leon Mostovoy, CEO of Wings of Wellness.

Mostovoy and I had a fabulous conversation about the difficulties queer people face, and we bonded over both wanting to find a nice Jewish wife.

“Queer bodies are biologically the same as everyone else, however our community endures more physiological stress, financial disadvantage, physical abuse, drug abuse and emotional abuse,” Mostovoy told me. “Therefore, we look for solutions to cope. I believe cannabis is the best, all natural and non-addictive medication we can use to heal inside and out.”

He also introduced me to his friend, business partner and social activist, Buck Angel.

If you’ve been living under a rock, Buck Angel is a trans-activist, motivational speaker and “general renaissance man,” who has been inspiring people around the country to “be comfortable in their own skin, whatever that means to them.”

He’s also recently gotten involved in cannabis, which wasn’t easy as an ex-addict with 30 years sober from drugs and alcohol. I recently spoke to him for this piece and his words were enlightening, to say the least!

Q&A with Buck Angel

HIGH TIMES: Do you feel like you had to come out twice? Once as trans and again as a stoner?

Buck Angel: Hahaha!! Totally! So I have to say that I decided to become very vocal about my cannabis usage because I am 30 years clean from alcohol and drugs. But I have been using cannabis for about five years to help with my insomnia and sometimes anxiety. It has been a game changer for me in regard to my mental health. I was very secret about my consumption of cannabis because I was scared of the backlash from the sober community. I am a public speaker and human rights activist and talk lots about getting sober from drugs and alcohol, so I didn’t want people to get a mixed message from me. But then one day I woke up and said, “I am the guy who speaks from my heart and speaks honestly, and I feel like I am lying and not being honest and proud of my cannabis usage.” That’s when I said I must become a voice for my community on how cannabis can help. It is not a gateway drug like we have been brainwashed to think. And of course, it won’t work for all. I wanted to be a voice of reason, a voice for a new way of healing. When I came out it was so freeing, just like how I remember coming out as gay! That’s why I started PrideCannabis with my trans man brother Leon Mostovoy.

HT: How has weed improved the quality of your life?

BA: One hundred percent it has changed my life for the better. I used to use sleeping pills to sleep because of my insomnia. I would wake up feeling so hung over and crappy. I hated it so much, but it was the only way I could sleep. Then I was introduced to cannabis and I just could not believe the difference in the quality of sleep and the next day. Also sometimes I just get a little to wound up, my travel schedule, as well as dealing with lots of different energies, sometimes makes me feel a bit too anxious. The cannabis calms me down and helps me feel grounded.

HT: Do you think cannabis makes it easier to be part of the LGBTQ community? If so, how?

BA: Well, I don’t know about easier, but I think many people in the LGBTQ community could benefit immensely from cannabis. There are lots of people in the community with triggers, like PTSD and anxiety, and they are being prescribed narcotics. I actually think that this is making some people worse. It is only masking the problem. Now I know that some people do benefit from narcotics, of course, but not all. So why isn’t cannabis being offered as an alternative medication? It is a medication! That’s where PrideCannabis comes in. We want to teach our community about alternative medicine. We want to help our community get healthy and learn to function in the world. That’s the ultimate goal. Let’s get healthy! That way we can move forward and create a better world.

HT: What advice would you give to other LGBTQ stoners out there?

BA: Please share your knowledge with others in our community. Please be proud of using cannabis. If we teach others that this is a medication that helps people function on a level that they can be achievers, then our community will start to heal. Now, what I see in our community is so much depression, hate, anger, and not at non-LGBTQ people, but at their own community. This has to stop. We must start to love one another and share. When we finally get back to the space of community, we will be so powerful nothing can stop us. I hope that cannabis will be a big part of healing our community.

Keep up with all HIGH TIMES’ culture coverage here.

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